Sunday, September 28, 2014

DIY Budget Infinity Scarf (not a mess)

Although my California friends are still sweating through the 100˚ summer, here in Wisconsin, it's scarf season. As someone who has never felt justified in buying a scarf in her life, I've been trying my best to resist the urge to buy all of the scarves! Everywhere you go there are scarves for sale. Beautiful scarves! Beautiful $30 scarves. I know $30 isn't a huge amount of money, but a little part of me sees these scarves and knows this is a total sham. This is a yard of fabric sewn together at the end. This is not a $30 product.

So, in an attempt this weekend to get my sewing mo-jo back before I have to start in on Halloween costumes, I bought a a yard and quarter of 45" wide herringbone flannel for $6 and came home to make a scarf. 

Since 45" wide fabric isn't quite wide enough to be a scarf on its own, I cut it down the middle. 
I sewed the short ends together on both sides (french seams, because I'm fancy like that) to make a big tube about 22" wide with a 90" circumference (and you thought you'd never use that high school geometry). 
Then, I hemmed up the edges all the way around. 
... and we have a scarf. Not a mess, hardly a craft, but, it got the sewing machine plugged in, so at least it's a start.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Massive (desk) undertaking

When I was 18 and home from college for summer my dad and I spent mornings reading the classified ads together after my mom want to work. I will never forget the look on my mom's face when she came home to learn that my dad had encouraged me to buy (and even hauled home) an enormous oak desk. My dad called it "the teacher desk" because it reminded him of the old oak desks teachers used to sit behind. The woman who sold it to me told us a little about its history and promised me it had a good soul.

So, I carried my massive desk from one college apartment to another until I moved home at 21 after college and it took 3 strong men to get it into my old bedroom. Naturally, when I headed off to graduate school a few month later, promising to return just as soon as I was a doctor, I left the desk behind.

In my bedroom back home it served as the mail station, mom's cheese making surface, a storage place for leftover artifacts from my grandmother's estate, and just a general catch all. If you ever had the pleasure of visiting my folks, you probably saw this desk in all its patinaed glory and thought, "Who would ever buy a desk this big?" Sorry, my fault.

If its long life before me didn't leave it in rough shape, 3 years of college and 5 years of abuse certainly left their mark. Although my parents were tolerant of my goliath desk, when I bought a house and moved across the country my mom drew a line in the sand. Get that desk out of here or I will get it out of here. She didn't go so far as to threaten its life, but I could see the look in her eye.

So, my parents loaded it up in their old Suburban and drove it to Orange where my movers loaded in into a moving truck and hauled it across country and set it in my craft room looking a little, well, worse for the wear.
The poor desk was no doubt showing its age and travels. While it was once a really impressive piece of furniture I was proud of, I found that I was suddenly feeling a little less proud. I thought about refinishing the whole thing, but worried that might be an overly ambitious undertaking for my first refinishing project. So, instead, I decided to refinish the top, and give the rest of it a good scrubbing, the reassess.

So, I sanded the top surface down with a random orbit sander, starting with 60 grain, and smoothing with 120. Sanding through the grime was a job, then I had to get through the finish. This is a mess. You have been warned.
Once the surface was clean, I gave it two coats of Minwax Wood Stain in "Golden Oak" wiped on with a rag. The color match was shocking. When that dried, I used a wipe on poly finish over the top. The finish was supposed to dry in 3 to 4 hours. The first coat took 3 days in my humid house with a fan running over it. Then, I buffed it with ultra-fine sand paper (440), and gave it a second coat. This one took a week and was still tacky. I gave up. Two coats is plenty.
While I waited for the finish to dry, I spent hours with steel wool and Olde English furniture polish scrubbing every inch of the desk to clean it up. The outcome was, again, more impressive than I'd expected. A lot of grime came off with each scrubbing, and eventually, you could see the natural woodgrain again. I bet you can guess which surface of this leg I scrubbed and which I didn't...
Perhaps this is not the craftiest thing I've ever done, but it has been one of the more daunting projects in my new house. Also, I had to prove that I haven't just been painting things bright colors...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ikea Hack Ceiling Fan Chandelier

I have a love/hate relationship with ceiling fans. As a former southern California resident I completely understand their functionality and necessity. There are times when I don't think I would have survived summer without them. Now, while it hasn't yet been so hot that I've needed them, I've been advised that they serve a similarly important role in the winter in forcing heat from poorly placed central heating vents down to the part of the room where the people are.

So, fans are good. I get it.

But, fans are also really, really ugly. I'm very concerned with ugly light fixtures and my house was full of them. I knew that I couldn't take on every ugly fixture at once (time and budget simply wouldn't allow it), so I started with the easiest fixes, or rather, the fixes I had the least control over. That is, I started with the ceiling fans.

My first project was this standard white ceiling fan in my bedroom. While I was glad that it was white (and not brass and faux wood--- don't worry, we're getting there) I just couldn't get excited about the awkward globey thing pointing down from the middle.
I'd seen some rather impressive and rather ambitious ceiling fan chandeliers on Pinterest, and knew I was not going to be cutting PVC pipe to make this happen.

But, it so happens that when I was 21 and impressionable, I impulse bought a chandelier at Ikea. It has hung from a hook in the ceiling and its Ikea bulb set-up in my dressing area ever since, and has made me smile more than a $20 chandelier really should. But, here in my new home, it made the ultimate sacrifice.

I removed the chandelier from the bulb set up (and put it in a box in the basement, I'm not that heartless) and tied 3 equal lengths of strong monofilament (okay, fishing line) to the metal ring that the bulb used to hang from. I cut the monofilament to about 9 inches, so once it was knotted, I had about 4 inch long loops to work with.

I removed the ugly globe from my ceiling fan (put it in the basement with the other half the chandelier set up) and unscrewed the lightbulb. Then, I hung the three loops of monofilament from the screws designed to hold the globe in place. When I put the lightbulb back in place in the socket, I had to be sure that the weight of the chandelier was hanging from the monofilament, not the bulb. This took a little adjusting, but was pretty easy to do by shortening the loops a bit.
Admittedly, if this were from anywhere but Ikea, it would probably have been too heavy. But, it's been hanging for a month now with no disasters yet.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Quick and Easy Guilded Coasters

I've never owned a real end table. In fact, as someone who has lived in tiny apartments and uninsulated houses with multiple roommates for a decade, I've never owned a piece of wood furniture I cared enough about to "coast." Now suddenly I've got two end tables with wood finishes that I can't set a beer glass of ice water on without worrying. So, for the first time I needed coasters.

Although I've had a couple of adventures in coaster making before, some more successful than others, I wanted to try something new (only partly because I wasn't thrilled with my last attempts). So, I went to Home Depot and bought four 4"x 4" white ceramic tiles for 13 cents a piece. Then, I went to JoAnns and bought a sheet of sticky back felt for a whopping $1.09.

Back home, I pulled out a roll of blue masking tape and cut it (this is a great task for phone calls with your parents, by the way) in to chevrons. I got lazy half way through so I made some with stripes instead.
I gave the masked tiles one quick coat with gold spray paint that I had laying around, and I pulled the tape off carefully before the paint dried. Then, I gave them all a quick spray with a spray on lacquer that was leftover from another project.

To keep the bottoms from scratching the finish off my table. I cut 16 small (1 cm) squares out of the sticky back felt and placed one on each corner of the tiles. With a 9 x 12 sheet of felt, I could have made enough of these for everyone I know.
The outcome: trendy guilded gold chevron coasters for less than $2 in less than an hour. Come have a drink at my place. I've got coasters.

Friday, September 19, 2014

When in doubt, add paint

As you've probably noticed, for me part of the fun owning a house has been getting to furnish it. While some of my projects have been restoration of pretty old wooden things (I promise, you'll see them in upcoming weeks) some have been more simple, "just add paint" sorts of fixes.

Take, for instance my guest room. I wanted to use the chest of drawers my sister painted when she was in college (yes, mess-making runs in the family) as a night stand, but the yellow color it has been just didn't work with the color palette I wanted to use in the room. The scene though (Pismo Beach, sigh) is exactly what I wanted. So, armed with a quart of semi gloss "America's Cup Navy" I turned this (sorry for the terrible photo... I know there is a picture of it somewhere in my college photos)
...into this with just some new drawer pulls and paint.      
I went to the Goodwill and found this little end table, complete with creepy lion drawer pull    
...and painted it to match.    
Finally, in the living room I wanted a long piece to serve as a buffet/tv stand and found this piece of American history for $6.     
I know, you're jealous.     
Again, a combination of paint and new hardware brought it into the 21st century.    

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

...get back to work

My new office in Wisconsin is, for the first time, all mine! After years of sharing an office with my fellow adjuncts, now that I have my own space the first thing I wanted to to was decorate. As someone who studies hope and identifies as a positive development psychologist, people tend to think that I should be one of those touchy-feely sweet types that are full of optimism and affirmation.

They're wrong. 

When I saw this image on Pinterest, I knew immediately it was the message I wanted to send to a student sitting in my office (and myself, for that matter). 
But, simply printing this out and hanging it on the wall wasn't going to do. Instead, I decided to make my own canvas version, you know, as I do.

So, I found some 16x22 canvases on sale at Michaels and set to work. First, I painted the whole thing blue with a sample of the Behr Spa Blue that I painted my craft room. 

Then, with pencil, I sketched out the words/images on the canvas. While it wasn't perfect, an outline with a fine tip sharpie and cleaned it up substantially.
Then, like a dummy, trying to cover up the pencil lines, I gave it one more layer of blue paint. This, of course, smeared the black sharpie. So, after I'd gone over the whole thing multiple times with a black paint marker (that black Elmer's Painter has gotten a lot of use!) I ended up having to touch up the whole thing with blue paint to hide the smears. Also, I don't know how to make the letter "B." I'm not sure what to say about this. 
Now my colleagues walk into my office and watch as they read the first half with pleasant smiles on their faces, then look utterly horrified as they get to the bottom. This is usually followed by, "Did you make that?" This, I'll admit is not a compliment, and makes me want to try again and learn how to make B.

But still, I get an eventual smile out of everyone in my office, and I get to say, "I made that" and feel very witty. You know what they say, 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ikea Hack Upholstered Bedframe (Part II)

While apparently double bed frames are a dime a dozen in rural Wisconsin, finding a queen sized frame (that could fit in the Echo no less) was more of a challenge. After 2 weeks of searching I came across someone trying to unload his daughters Ikea Malm bed (and was willing to help me wedge it in the Echo). Now for as much as I love their "marketplace" full of linens and kitchen gadgets don't need, most Ikea furniture is just not my style. I tend towards more classic, traditional pieces, and the clean, simple, Ikea stuff just doesn't do it for me. But, the price is right, and it is easy to break down. So, Ikea Malm it is. Unfortunately, it wasn't even the white Malm, it was the fake-birch Malm. Ugh.
This, I decided, simply was not going to work. And, I knew that lacquer thinner wasn't going the solve the problem.

So, I drove to JoAnns for 4 yards of "Soft and Crafty" batting and Big Lots for a cheap set of King sized sheets in the right color and set to work.
Just like I'd done with my foam core headboard last year at this time (but on a much larger scale!) I cut the king sized flat sheet into pieces large enough to cover the boards (two sideboards at 14 x 82, head and footboard at 42 x 75) and the batting into similar shaped strips. With copious staples (and my poor cat cowering from the sound of a staple gun), I managed to upholster all 4 pieces, cut the fabric out of the way to expose the holes I needed to reassemble it, and re-assemble the bed. I'll admit, I had to use a butter knife to "tidy up" the joints, hiding unfinished edges in the joints when I put the bed together, but overall, I'm much happier with the look of the bed now (please ignore the poorly fitting sheet and undecorated room... I'm getting there.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Great Bedframe Revolution (Part I)


In my upstairs Orange County apartment you may remember that I had to cover a piece of foam core in fabric and stick-um it to the wall. It worked perfectly. However, now in my very own great big house I found myself in the market for some real headboards and bed frames.

I needed a queen sized frame for the mattress in the guest room and wanted a double sized frame for my own bedroom. Of course, in the Craigslist antique market, double beds are far easier to come by. I scored an antique wooden frame at a garage sale for $10 in a neighboring town. It was in pretty rough shape when I brought it home, and my initial plan was to paint it. But, the wood was just too beautiful to cover up with paint. Unfortunately, I was not looking forward to stripping and refinishing the whole thing. As you can see, it needed it. Can you tell where someone's head rubbed up against the headboard 40 years? I could.

I found this article from familyhandyman.com that explained how to clean up old wood with gel stain. So, I started with his method. Against my better judgment, I scrubbed the whole thing down with soap and water. My dad would have shot me for this (as he has always told me wood doesn't like to get wet). My dad is right. The water did get the piece nice and clean, but also made the finish a little cloudy, and darkened the gashes. I tried to give it a little love with Old English, but the damage was done. Now with a solid distrust of this guy, and having read a few other articles that didn't exactly sing the praises of the gel finish, I found this article from Utah State talking about alternative strategies for dealing with scratched finish.

I started by wiping the piece down with mineral spirits to get it good and clean. I also had to scrape off some old christmas tape, nail polish, and paint speckles from many years of hard life. But, goo-gone and a razor blade went a long way.

Then, I l took a foam brush and wetted it in a tupperware of lacquer thinner, and essentially liquified the lacquer to try to even out the finish. This allowed the old, original finish to smooth out and fill in the scratches and wear in the finish. After 4 iterations of this process, the finish was much smoother and more shiny than it had been. But, the finish was still thin in some spots. So, I gave it a few coats of spray on clean lacquer, and just before the last coat sanded it lightly with ultra find (440 grit) sandpaper.
I'll admit, putting a modern box spring and mattress on a very old bedframe has given me a serious princess and the pea effect. But overall I'm pretty delighted with the new life to this once dilapidated bedframe.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Rag Knit Rug

Now that I have a newly painted floor in the craft room, I found that the room is pretty painfully echoey. So, I decided, a throw rug was in order. I started online looking for a rug in the 4 ft x 6ft range and learned that even the cheapest rugs this size seem to run about $80. If you don't want it to be hideous, you're looking at closer for $120. At Target. What the heck? Why are rugs to expensive?

So, naturally, I tried to come up with a way to DIY a rug. After many hours of searching, I decided that knitting one was probably my best bet, but that I would need some good chunky yarn. After a little number crunching of yardage and cost, I realized that even using the cheapest cheap acrylic yarn, I was going to be around $80 in yard to make a rug. Blast! That's why they're so expensive. Also, I don't particularly want a crappy acrylic rug.

With a little more research I realized that a rug could be knit from fabric, and fabric can be dyed any color you like it. Perhaps you've never seen this Rit Dye color chart. Prepare to have your mind blown. So, I picked up 2 double bed sized flat sheets at the Salvation Army ($4), 4 yards of 90" wide white muslin (on sale $17) and two bottles of Rit Dye ($7; scarlet and tangerine), and went home to get to work.

First, I ran the washer with all of my fabric, and also some ugly curtains that the last owners left to get them good and wet. Remember these guys?
Then, using a hot cycle, I added both containers of dye, the curtains, and the muslin, and ran them through an extra long wash cycle (30 min) and a cold rinse cycle. Then, for the third cycle, I threw in the bedsheets as well, to get some color (but less) on them as well.

I ended up with some coral muslin, some bright pink sheets, and some sort of rust colored curtains. Perhaps not my best dye job. But, it'll do.

Then, working the cut length of the fabric, I tore the muslin and the sheets into approximately 1 1/4" strips using this zig-zag method to make it all one long strip. Once I had done all three pieces, I had these enormous balls of "yarn" (they're the size of bowling balls) to work with.
The largest needles in my collection were a set of big plastic size 35s. I did a quick gage and found that 10 stitches in stockinettte measured 9". So, deciding that 45" would be ample, I cast on 50 and started knitting.

About 8 hours later, I had a 45" x 60" rug. I considered adding a strip of white at the end to make it longer, but got lazy and bound off. I think it will be perfect for a little knitting nook in the craft room. It makes the room little warmer, much less echoey, and only cost about $30, including matching curtains.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

DIY fabric bolts and Dollar Tree yarn bins


With the very high bar set on Pinterest for beautiful craft rooms, I am feeling a little daunted by the task of making mine look good enough to photograph. 

First off, I have a ton of very disorganized fabric which was folded in every different shape and size. In my last craft closet it, on more than one occasion, the whole mess capsized and spent months sitting in piles on the floor. Upon arriving in Whitewater, I decided that I certainly wouldn't let that happen again. So, I employed a 3-tiered fabric organization system.

Fat quarters and other pieces less than a yard were folded down to the size of a fat quarter (22 x 18), then folded up "Betty's Style" (Yes, Betty's Fabrics has a special way of folding fat quarters. I have a muscle memory for this that will stay with me always). These were then organized by color and put into storage bins.
Large and bulky fabrics (canvas, fur, batting, etc) were put on hangars and hidden in the closet.
For everything else, I pulled out some heavy duty card stock (other people online have used poster board for this--- I used the heaviest 8.5 x 11 cardstock I could find at Michaels) and made my own "mini bolts" of fabric. To do this, I laid out the fabric to see its full length and folded in lengthwise (hotdog style) to be about 11" wide. The good news, 44" cottons folded in half at 22" to fit on a bolt can just be folded in half once more: 11". Done. For 54" and 60" this took a little more ingenuity. I left them folded in half (like they would be on a standard bolt, then folded them into rough thirds.

Once it was folded to size, I wrapped the fabric, just like a on bolt, around the card stock, secured the end with a straight pin to keep it all in place, and made piles by color as I made it through the collection. This ended up taking the better part of a day, but is totally worth it.
I tried to implement a similar color-coding strategy for my yarn, but the outcome was less impressive. I think this was partly because of how much ugly brown yarn I have.
Bins. Yarn was going to require bins. But, as always, bins are so damn expensive. On a trip to the dollar store for other supplies I stumbled across these white "pop corn" bins. They were made of flimsy plastic, but, I figured, might work.
With a about 4 coats of white spray paint (already kicking around the house) I was able to cover up the "pop corn" logo well enough that no one will ever know.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

"Antique" platter gallery wall

I used to worry that I had too much art for my walls. In a little apartment with only 8 walls, I did. But now, in a great big house with many more surfaces to fill, I find that I don't have enough good, grown up art to decorate my new house. So, I found myself in a position I never thought I would, looking for cheap classy art to hang in the guest room above the bed. 

My color palate in the room had already wandered a little farther than I'd wanted it to, and I'd already decorated one wall with old art from past homes, so I was looking for something neutral and simple, but not too modern. 

My original instinct was to hang a big decorative metal mirror, like I'm always seeing in pretty magazine bedroom-scapes. But, big decorative metal mirrors cost upwards of $100 even at inexpensive stores, and I didn't even spend that on a bed. So, that was off the list. 

Next, I started thinking about using multiple little metal mirrors, inspired by this relatively inexpensive set at Target. But, I was afraid with so much wall, they wouldn't quite fit the space. I would need more. 
While wandering the Goodwill in search of round mirrors to cobble together to make mirror collage, I found the section full of old discarded silver and aluminum trays. Having seen the silver gallery wall online before, I decided this might just be the ticket. So, I bought about 8 from two different thrift shops and went home to play with them. 
My intial plan was to spray paint them copper to match the colors I was already using in the room. But, I was scared to ruin something. So, I started with the three I deemed most ugly (and cheapest) and gave them a good coating with the same cheap copper spray paint I've used on other surfaces in the room already. Then, after 45 minutes of moving the collection of trays around on the floor and a good amount of guilt, I decided not to spray paint the real silver. It already had kind of a nice patina to it. Finally I decided return a handful of the (not painted) trays, realizing 8 may have been overkill in the space. 

My total cost at this point was about $9 (seeing as that the spray paint was already kicking around). 

I read online that 3M command strips worked well for these types of jobs, and I'd used them in the past, so I went and bought a package of command velcro strips and set to work. After carefully following the instructions tray after tray came crashing down onto the floor. Eventually, once the cat was scared to death and I had lost my patience, I came to the conclusion that they were not going to work. The stick-em was working just fine on the metal trays, but for one reason or another was having no part in sticking to my walls (this room, but the way, I didn't paint. I'm just going to let it be brown. So, perhaps the Command strips were trying to send me a message?)

Luckily, Amazon had the answer. For about $18 I got five plate hanging disks delivered to my house and affixed them to the platters. 
The end result, definitely worth the $25.